Feeling Puny

In the American South, where I spent much of my life, to describe one’s self as ‘feeling puny’ meant you were sick or ill in some way and not your usual self. That’s me today, feeling puny even after sleeping eight hours and having had a nap the day before. I have so much I wanted to do today, but with a throat that feels as if it’s on fire and an overall unwell feeling, I think I’ll just go back to bed … at least for a few hours.

For the record, that’s not my bed in the photo above. It belonged to the master of the house at Lanhydrock. Although it does look inviting, I rather be snug in my cozy bed below. I may be back later today with a book review I’ve been working on, or I may not. I hope your Saturday is more productive than mine appears it’s going to be …and Donna, if you’re reading this, ‘ Thanks for the hostess gift. ‘

Seriously, I do hope she’s feeling better. After leaving us on Thursday, she began to feel ill by the time she made it back to London and according to an email, she felt even sicker on Friday. Being ill away from home makes it much worse and I’m grateful for my warm bed and my sweet husband who’s close enough to check on me now and then.

By the way, the online dictionary I use does not define puny as having anything to do with feeling ill so I’m guessing it’s just a southern thing.

Fast Talking Our Way Around Cornwall

Donna Freedman Arriving In Cornwall 2011


How much can you squeeze into a short 42 hour visit and still catch a few hours of sleep? John and I had a chance to find out when Donna Freedman rolled into our Cornish community on Tuesday afternoon.

I’ve included only a few pictures from our short time together and I have to add that while I took quite a few pictures of Donna, I did agree that I would not post them without approval. I understand that completely as I’m that way too and it’s a promise I make a lot so people won’t be put off by my documentary style of shooting.

Here’s an outline of what we managed to see and do while she was in Cornwall.

DAY 1:

After a quick sandwich and luggage drop at home, we made a mad dash over to Port Isaac to see a Cornish fishing port that also serves as a part-time set for the television show, Doc Martin.

We had a good walk around the village, stopping to pet a few dogs, eat some Cornish ice cream, and tour an art gallery located in former Methodist church.

On the drive there and back, we passed through a few villages complete with churches that looked a lot like the church in photo below. They’re everywhere here even though they are rarely full these days. Churches in England suffer from a lack of members as my friend Alycia points out here and it’s a struggle to keep them up.

During our drive, we met an oncoming car in one of our narrow lanes and John whipped it into reverse backing up so fast that I think his speed surprised Donna in much the same way it did me when I came over the first time. He should have been a race driver as good as he is behind the wheel.

Driving across the moor in the dark, we came upon a group wild ponies hanging out in the road and Donna wondered aloud as I often do whether they might move for the car. I always hope the moorland ponies will be visible when people come to visit and was pleased to see them.

John made a turkey chili for dinner while I handled the salad and dessert. Since it was Shrove Tuesday, we had pancakes with a baked apple/pecan mixture inside and vanilla ice cream and maple syrup on top.

After that we rushed off to a neighboring village so Donna could see bell ringing practice and try her hand at it as well. John went the pub next door for a pint instead of church and we stopped in after for a minute before heading for home.

Once home, Donna and I stayed up talk, talk, talking, sitting side by side on the sofa, holding our laptops and sharing our stories until my eyes began to close. I went off to bed and she stayed up to finish some writing and managed to post to her blog while I was getting some rest.

Day 2:

After breakfast on Day 2, Donna and I walked to the village shop so I could post a letter and pick up some pasties for lunch. While there, she had a chance to see how helpful folks are here as I asked someone in the shop about what I thought were locked church doors. ( There’s a roster of folks who open and close it each day)

After two phone calls, Margaret determined the church was actually unlocked already and that I just needed to go back and put some muscle to the door. Feeling slightly silly for having been too fragile about it, we walked back to the church where I gave the door a push so we could have a look around. Our village has one of the prettiest churches around with parts of it dating back to Norman times although it was transformed in the 15th century.

Around noon, John and I took about an hour or so to join some others from the village attending the funeral of our next door neighbor who died a week ago Sunday.

We went home for a quick pasty lunch and to pick up Donna before heading out to see Boscastle, a fishing village that was ravaged by a flash flood in 2004, but has since recovered. It’s a good place to pick up the coast path and I was focused on getting Donna on the coast path at least once even with the limited amount of time she was with us. You just can’t come to Cornwall and leave without a walk on the coast path!

We made it back in time for me to make a couple of blackberry cobblers with berries I picked and froze last summer. Saving them for dessert later, we walked down to the pub for dinner and quiz night.

We Won!

We joined friends, Jeff and Robert, teaming up to WIN the pub quiz while Donna very kindly treated us to dinner. I was chuffed that Donna was here and part of the win.

I had a yummy, faceless, veggie burger for dinner while John ordered a meal that stared at me the whole time he was eating it, plus I could see its teeth. Donna had a more traditional meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, veggies, and yorkshire pudding.

After dinner, we celebrated our quiz win with a dish of  blackberry cobbler that was topped with Cornish ice cream. Donna and I stayed up late again talking, changing subjects quickly as we tried to cover more topics than we had time to do properly.

The Final Day:

This morning we were all up early as Donna had an 8:06 train to catch back to London. Donna was very much like her blog persona which I find reassuring in a way. I tend to think people are who they say they are which can be a bit naïve, but I’ve been lucky when it comes to meeting blogging buddies who really are as they appear to be online when we meet face to face.

42 hours with Donna was as fast paced as an episode of The West Wing, mixed with the energy of newspaper office full of journalists, much like those I’ve seen in the movies listed on this Top 10 Newspaper Movies list.

Do have a quick look so you’ll know what I mean. Not surprisingly, some of the very movies I had in mind were on the list. Donna’s career as a journalist was very apparent in our conversations and her sense of humor, and John and I both enjoyed her visit.

We talked a great deal about writing as you might imagine and she was kind enough to share some helpful tips along with answering my questions on editing and publishing.

I began this post after she left this morning, but partway through decided to take a quick nap. Clearly my subconscious was prodding me to finish it because while I was sleeping, I woke from a dream hearing Donna offering an editorial suggestion to the piece I was supposed to be working on instead of lazing around in bed.

I’m sure it came from observing her writing discipline while she was here and it did not go unnoticed that she was able to meet her deadlines while still having fun.

Walking into Port Isaac

Another view on the path to Port Isaac, but looking back in the opposite direction.

The harbor in Port Isaac with the old school on the hill in the distance.

This is St Breward Church where Donna had an opportunity to ring the bells.

While Donna is not in this blurry shot of some bell ringers in action, I do have some video of her learning how to control the rope.

In the shot above, you can see the two tiny figures of John and Donna off the left of the image about half way down in this photograph of Boscastle. (click twice to enlarge)

I’ve never noticed Rosemary with blooms and snapped this as John walked into my shot.

I love this photo of John near the harbor entrance at Boscastle.

Winchurch Family - Boscastle 1930

After John saw today’s blog post, he gave me this photo that his dad took 80 years ago when he was 16 on a family outing at Boscastle. I had to add it so it could be seen with the photo of John that I took yesterday.

42 Hours To Share What I Love About Cornwall Life

We’ve got a visitor arriving by train in a few minutes. It’s Donna Freedman, who until now has been known only to me through her blogging here and her column at MSN Money.

Lest you think she’s a total stranger aside from being blogging buddies, Donna used to work as a journalist at the Anchorage Daily News with my brother-in-law, Leon. She has an interesting history and writes about how to live well on less.

She’ll be pleased to know that the flowers in her room are from the garden and the blackberries I’ll be using in a cobbler tomorrow, are frozen from the fifteen pounds of berries I picked last summer after reading about how she freezes them for winter use.

With only 42 hours, we’ll be moving pretty quickly. I have no idea what she’d like to see as she has left that up to us. We still have a few normal commitments during those 42 hours, such as a funeral service for our neighbor, but I figure we can leave her in downtown Bodmin for an hour to explore some of my favorite charity shops or she might want to stay home and write.

She’s posting about her frugal travel experience some of which includes staying in hostels in London. Having stayed a few hostels myself, I think she’ll find our guest room a nice alternative.



Round The World – Tickets For Two

We are pretty busy around here sorting out details for an eight week-long trip we have coming up. It involves two Round the World tickets, two backpacks, and two people with a passion for adventure. We will be in four countries during that time, but will spend most of it traveling in one country in particular. I am thrilled to bits to have an opportunity to go on such a lengthy journey with John and will be blogging about it as we go. Can you guess where we are headed … or do you need more clues?

As we will be gone for two months, we have been firming up house sitting details (my biggest worry) and are now just down to packing, cleaning, and prepping the house for the folks who will be watching over our home. It is never easy to have people in when you’re not, but at least our house sitters are family. After reading Donna Freedman’s post about house sitters yesterday, I hope that having family versus a friend of a friend as she has had in the past will make for a better return experience for us.

I am off now to read more of Carolyn Barnabo’s thirteen ‘Passion for Travel’ posts which have just the kind of information one needs when taking a trip like the one we have planned.

There will be loads of great photo opportunities over the next two months and if you feel like joining us on our travel adventure, be sure to stop by from time to time and see some of what we’ll be seeing.

Successful Moves – Climbing Your Way To The Top

As illustrated by my last post, while I was in Paris I was never quite sure what I might see around the next corner. One might think this location a bit odd for this show of skill … balancing a ball on various parts of the body in front of a Paris skyline especially since it occurred in front of the famous house of worship below.

Unlike other well-known churches and cathedrals, there was no photography allowed and once inside it felt more like a place of worship than the tourist sites that so many others churches have become.

Since this man had chosen to locate his ” workplace ” at the base of the steps leading up to the famous church it seemed somehow appropriate that he send what looked like a prayerful message to his higher power.

I noticed the man with the ball for a minute until I was temporarily distracted by the traveling troubadour above. Even the music man stopped to watch the ascent when he realized he had lost the attention of the crowd who found a man climbing a lamppost more interesting than his version of James Taylor’s ” You’ve got a Friend.”

So up he goes …

… and up

… climbing hand over hand with a soccer ball resting lightly on his head.

He reached the top rather quickly and the gathered audience that watched from below him as well as the larger once scattered across the steps to the Sacré Coeur were impressed and amazed as their clapping and shouts illustrated.

Just as they say in business … what goes up must come down, he could not maintain his high position forever and he began his descent back to earth. He dangled by one arm balancing the ball on his foot instead of his head and teased his audience with a few impressive displays of his ability to keep their attention.

At one point he dropped his ball, but someone below gave it a toss back up and no one seemed to lose interest even with the temporary loss.

Once he had his ball back, he did a series of flips and had the ball bouncing up and around from one foot to the other, a trick that one might be more accustomed to seeing demonstrated on a soccer field.

Then he let the ball go to the ground and quickly followed behind dropping his body faster than one might imagine safe for a descent.

Back on the ground he stood for a few minutes atop his impromptu stage, a concrete base where his muscled physique reminded me of the marble bodies standing watch in the Louvre. With his hat at his feet before him, he waited as his audience showed their approval with the clink of their coins and I wondered as I watched how much money he would take in for his labor.

Before I could think too much about his possible yearly income, my attention was diverted back to poor Yuri who had begun his song again hoping to sell a few CD’s before it was time for the climbing man’s next show. So surprised was I still by the carnivalesque atmosphere of the area that when I saw the woman below approaching …

I wondered if she was perhaps another person intent on making a living close to the church grounds and as she stopped to be photographed with tourists standing with the Sacré Coeur behind them, I wondered briefly if she was merely in costume to make money or a real nun.

She paused on the steps and gave Yuri a look that made me wonder if she meant to compete with him for an audience too and for a second I half expected her to break into a song and dance routine straight from Whoopi Goldberg’s London stage production of Sister Act.

I watched as she climbed the steps graciously posing for a few more photographs until she was joined by two more members of the church and they went inside. By the time I was ready to leave a few hours later, both Yuri the musician and the climbing man were gone and several new performers had taken their place.

I ran into the older nun you see above only a few days later which was interesting on its own, but where I saw her and what she did make the story even better. That’s one for another day though as I have my own work to get on with. Having no cap to place at my feet, I need to send out more submissions as I look for opportunities today to make my own way to the top.


Shakespeare And Company – Surviving And Thriving

Elizabeth Harper - Shakespeare And Company - 2010

Some of you may be thinking,” What does the famous Shakespeare And Company bookstore in Paris have to do with Surviving And Thriving? ” Aside from the obvious fact that American George Whitman’s bookstore has survived and thrived since he established it in 1951 across from Notre Dame, today’s post has to do with the ways in which we may unknowingly affect others in the blogging community.

I can’t remember if I visited this bookstore the first time I came to Paris in 1980, but I do have a photograph of myself standing in front of it in 2000 and again in 2009. While it may seem pretty touristy to have your picture taken in front of such a well-known shop, it has become a bit of a tradition for me now to stop by George Whitman’s eclectic bookstore to see what’s happening.

It’s funny how people pop into your mind when going through your day and when I mentioned to Donna Freedman in an email recently that I thought of her during my trip to Paris last month and she could not imagine how or why Paris might have triggered a thought about her. It makes perfect sense to me as I am sure it will you once I share a few things about the day.

You may remember that I have mentioned Donna in the past. She writes a great deal about living frugally and makes it sound almost like a game to enjoy versus anything close to deprivation. While strolling in and out of various places in Paris, there were endless opportunities to open my wallet and spend on things I did not need. I found myself having conversations in my head that generally went something like, ” Oh, isn’t that just the cutest thing, maybe I should get it to help remember my trip to Paris.”

Never mind that I had already accumulated about 3,000 photographs of Paris to help trigger my memory, while walking through Shakespeare And Company I decided ever so briefly that I needed another canvas tote. How many of these bags I currently have did not even matter when I discovered the cool bag in the photo below. I went back and forth, buy it – don’t by it … until finally I thought about what would Donna do and I put it back.

Bag Design By Badaude And Image From Her Site

It was a lovely bag by Badaude and I would have snatched it up in a hurry if I did not already own more bags than I have use for, but that did not stop me from considering several books just as I always do. I was on the verge of another purchase when I picked up the book below. (The full image is in the first photograph)

It’s Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and finding it reminded me of how many in the US are struggling just to get by and how the scarcity of jobs has many people working for far less than they would have considered in the past. That thought led me to frugality, which once again made me think of Donna Freedman and even though she didn’t write this book, I still said to my sister, ” Take my picture for Donna.”

Earlier this morning I finished reading a piece she wrote for Get Rich Slowly that has tons of information and tips for both the underemployed and the unemployed. Donna writes regularly at MSN Money as well and has her own site that I mentioned in the title above. She also has a contest every week over at her blog home, Surviving And Thriving and even though I have not won anything yet, I feel like I take something away with me every time I stop by to see what she has to say.

So there it is, a message about how Donna Freedman inspired a thought and photograph in front of a famous bookstore, in the shadow of Notre Dame. It could be you next time.

One Benefit Of Line Drying – No More Lost Socks

You have to love having someone around who is still young enough to enjoy the chores most of us would easily never do again if someone agreed to take them off our hands. Now before you go thinking I was trying to turn Jersey Girl into Cinderella last week, she volunteered to help her Bapa (John) out when he had some washing to do.

Photo by John Winchurch

In fact, she seemed to like the process so much there was little left unwashed when she went home to Jersey last Friday. I think her favorite part was hanging the wash on the line. She had quite the system right from the beginning and not surprising a few things emerged during our discussion around issues frequently found in maintaining a clean wardrobe.

Chief subject of interest, you guessed it … disappearing socks. It seems despite the geographic boundaries of another country, here, as in America, dryers, referred to in the UK as tumble dryers, still eat socks. Jersey Girl mentioned that this had happened in the past with one of her grandmothers who had managed to solve this problem by pinning her socks together before they were washed and dried. It turns out that grandmother has one of those sock-eating tumble dryers in her home.

I told Jersey Girl that I had discovered that the secret to safe-guarding socks from a mysterious and confusing shortage was to hang all washing on the line. It’s the absolute truth and no matter what you might say about the hassles of line drying, not only does it save money and energy, you don’t end up with solo socks whose mates have gone on walkabout deep into the Devil’s Triangle we call a tumble dryer.

Don’t believe me … I dare you to give it a try for a few weeks and see what you think. Oh, and don’t forget to check your energy bills at the end of the month to see what you saved, in addition to possibly your favorite pair of socks.


This post was inspired in part by my fairly frugal husband John and his granddaughter Jersey Girl and also by Donna Freedman and the money-saving tips found at her new space here and her regular MSN Money home here.